Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

The Morality - Technology Dilemma

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One constant throughout human history has been the ability of human beings to advance technologically. The advent of the wheel, printing press, electricity, automobile, telephone, television, modern weaponry, computer and the Internet are all examples. What has also been constant is societies meager attempt to keep pace, align and apply morality with technological advancement. The splitting of the atom and the Internet has changed the world forever, but it has also forced a new examination of the moral consequences of such change. The ability to annihilate millions with the push of a button, to the capacity to communicate with others anywhere, anytime and explore every facet of human information forces an expansive understanding of right and wrong behaviors. The advent of texting and social networking, only adds to the complexity of what is appropriate communication or not. It may provide the opportunity to access friends present and past, but it also invites the potential for deceit and irresponsible behavior.

Technology has opened many avenues to explore our existence and human relationships, but with it comes an added responsibility to ensure we behave in a respectful and dignified way toward others. Ironically, Albert Einstein quoted, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” What does it mean to be moral? Morality is defined as, “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” Based on religion, culture and social norms that definition can be left too much interpretation in regard to what is right and wrong behavior. I define morality in my life as how I treat another human being, and I believe we should treat one another with dignity and respect. It is a behavioral practice I attempt to emulate every day.

On a positive note, technology has forced us to evaluate even further what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Each day we are exposed to information relating to human behavior that creates discussion and examination. John Naisbitt stated, “The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.”

Technology can also create insensitivity toward human suffering and the feelings of others. When our children participate in video games of violence, murder and human mutilation so graphic, there is no possible way it adds to an increased understanding of the sanctity of life, or what it means to be compassionate. When a drone pilot can drop munitions sitting in a chair thousands of miles away from the target, execute the murder of humans, proceed home for dinner that evening, and repeat that scenario consistently there is no doubt that a desensitizing of human anguish occurs. As technology continues to advance it is imperative to be mindful of the influence technology has on our children’s interpretation of right and wrong. It is the core values of a parent and family that provide the foundation to provide moral guidance to those around us. Without core values to mold and discipline behavior, the influence of technology will.

With the season of appreciation, giving and reflection upon us, let us celebrate what it means to be human and the wonderment of the emotion and experience attached to life. The greatest danger in modern technology isn’t that machines will begin to think like people, but that people will begin to think like machines. As we shop for the next new technological marvel this season, let us also shop for the time to enjoy one another and the spirit that comes with thinking a bit more of others than ourselves. As you are sitting around the dinner table some evening with those you love ask the following two questions. What aspects of morality has technology impacted both positively and negatively? What does it mean to be human, and is there a recent experience that ignited that human spirit in you? General Omar Bradley stated, “If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” Never forget the moral responsibility that comes with being human. It will generate respect for life, and living, for generations to come.



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